ACARE's European strategy lays out safety priorities

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European research should focus on developing three-dimensional vision capabilities and methods to provide better information to air crews as part of the effort to cut the risk of controlled-flight-into-terrain (CFIT), recommends a new pan-European strategic plan.

The newly-published strategic agenda from the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE) – a joint governmental/industry body set up last year to steer European research – aims to reduce the CFIT accident rate by 90% through eliminating the majority of causes identified as primary contributors to such events.

It proposes a short-term investigation into improving the analysis of in-service experience data, in order to generate better software tools for operators, and recommends the development of 3-D vision enhancement systems.

But it also highlights the need to improve delivery of information to pilots. This not only covers better provision of air traffic control instructions, terrain and obstacle data, and trajectory information – possibly via datalink – but the development of improved warning cues, both visual and aural, for terrain/flight-path conflicts.

Enhanced-vision research forms part of the strategy laid down to address safety improvements during approach and landing; the research plan also recommends further investigation into satellite-based trajectory control, and development of tactical decision-support tools for pilots. In the longer term, it says, researchers should aim to reduce accidents by developing fully-automated approach and landing systems.

ACARE’s agenda, designed to span the period to 2020, sets a target of cutting the air accident rate by 80% through joint European strategic research and subsequent implementation of products in the short, medium and long term.

CFIT and landing-accident reduction are two of the ten specific safety-improvement channels along which ACARE is proposing that research be concentrated.

Minimising factors contributing to loss of aircraft control is listed as a priority. The agenda envisions improved short-term development of training techniques and tools to increase crew members’ abilities to recover from aircraft-upset and stall situations.

Medium-term recommendations include improving human-machine interface designs which take greater account of crew behaviour, and question the validity of assumptions regarding ‘normal’ pilot skills. Research should also study on-board aids to assist crews in understanding failures in real-time and manage reconfiguration.

Proposals to reduce the risk of airprox incidents include researching new separation concepts, and defining the acceptability of separation safety levels. The agenda puts forward recommendations to study airborne separation assurance applications – but also raises the controversial proposal to investigate methods enabling airborne self-separation assurance.

The agenda recognises the risks posed by meteorological phenomena and is proposing research into detection and avoidance of wake vortices and clear-air turbulence, possibly using laser-based technology, and better detection of icing conditions. Weather-related research proposals also focus on guaranteeing runway capacity during poor conditions – by studying airport-specific safety aspects of high-crosswind landings and the effects of buildings on turbulence.

ACARE’s plan also focuses on research into five other areas affecting air transport safety: human performance, ground operations, air accident survivability, engineering and certification methods, and the identification of future hazards.